Annette Seubert, SP
When Rosa asked me to do a reflection for her final vows she said: “You know me.”
Yes, I have gotten to know Rosa since she came to the United States, especially from my living with her for five years. I know some of her gifts and limitations, some of her struggles and dreams, her creative and mischievous self (nickname: “Rascal”).
I have come to know her concerns for her family, her commitment to her religious community and those she serves. Rosa has often shared with me from her heart space and I have come to know that she has a deep sense of prayer and discernment, love of God and a strong desire to follow Jesus. But the one who really knows Rosa is her beloved, Jesus. Jesus’ knowing is a relationship of the heart. From her mother’s womb, Jesus knew Rosa, and from that time graced her with an invitation to seek him with all her heart, and she found the one she loves living deep within her.
“Here I am, Lord”
Rosa’s journey to this time of her final commitment has been one of seeking, listening, discerning and responding. Rosa has come to know Jesus and his invitation to follow him as a Sister of Providence. Her response: “Here I am, Lord; I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me; I will hold your people in my heart.” (From the song, Here I am Lord.)
It is not a surprise to me that Rosa chose the theme and readings she did for celebrating her perpetual profession. They truly encompass her vocation story. In the first reading today, Samuel was called three times and thought it was Eli, and each time was eager to respond with, “Here I am.” When Eli realized the Lord was calling, he counseled Samuel to respond with: “Speak, Lord; your servant is listening.”
This willingness to listen is so much a part of discerning a call. For Rosa, hearing God’s call and her willingness to listen has been like that of Samuel.
Rosa’s vocation journey has not always been easy, which is reflected in today’s gospel reading: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, whoever wishes to come after me must deny herself, take up her cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save her life will lose it, but whoever loses her life for my sake will find it.”
Letting go for Jesus’ sake
Rosa’s story began at a young age and at 19 she left her country, father, mother, brothers and sisters to respond to her initial call to follow Jesus. Her journey of letting go for Jesus’ sake has always been one of strong faith in the one who calls.
I have been impressed with Rosa’s depth of spirituality and listening, as she has experienced the difficulties and gifts of living in a religious community with persons from other cultures and adapting to the foods and American culture in the United States.
She has faced the significant challenges of learning a new language and pursued her studies in English. where she was able to graduate with honors. She has pondered all these things in her heart, and is successfully integrating two cultures, to live the integrity of her call as a Sister of Providence and a Vietnamese-American. Her motivation: to follow the call of her beloved Jesus who teaches the way of love and service.
As a young girl, Rosa began hearing murmurs of her call and she says she had the stirrings of her vocational invitation when she was about 12 years old. Like young Samuel, Rosa began to experience a desire in her heart to follow a call and to become a religious sister. At this time, she entered boarding school run by the Lovers of the Holy Cross, where her aunt, Sister Mary Kim Vu, was a member and became her mentor. Rosa adapted well and made friends with the other students and like all young people got into her fair share of mischief. She was playful and developed responsibility for her duties. Sister Mary Kim also saw a bright and avid learner.
Her many gifts would take her far
Like Eli with Samuel, Sister Mary Kim took Rosa under her wing. Rosa watched the Sisters and saw how they worked so gently with the children, taught in Sunday school and seemed to love everyone. She decided then her goal was to become a Sister and her aunt encouraged her by having her attend prayer and Mass with the sisters every morning. Sister Mary Kim saw the great potential in Rosa and knew she had many gifts that could take her far, even to a foreign country.
In 2004 her aunt, Sister AnnMary Vu, came to Vietnam to visit Rosa. She had been living in Portland, Oregon, as a member of the Lovers of the Holy Cross and had transferred to the Sisters of Providence. Sister AnnMary told her about the Sisters of Providence and encouraged her to pursue discerning her vocation with Sister Clare Lentz, who was Vocation Director at the time. Rosa had learned to read and write some English and was able to communicate with Clare. She kept before her the words of Samuel, “Speak, Lord; your servant is listening,” and she began to develop more familiarity with the voice of God within her.
Rosa completed her high school education and, after some time in a spiritual guidance relationship with Sister Clare, she made a decision to ask to enter the Sisters of Providence.
It was a scary time because she was young and unsure how she might adapt to another culture and she spoke little English. Rosa prayed a lot for God to show her the way and when she applied for her visa to the United States she was asked only one question: “Why do you want to go to the United States?” Her response: “To become a religious sister.” Rosa received her visa, which she says “was a sign from God to go to the U.S. to follow her call”. She responded with, “Here I am,” and knew her God would be with her.
Accepted as novice in Spokane
November 12, 2006, Rosa came to Seattle, Washington, with her cousin Hong Nga. After living with the Sisters of Providence for about two years and studying English, they both became candidates and began the formal formation program for the Sisters of Providence. On October 7, 2009, after returning from a visit with her family in Vietnam, Rosa was accepted as a novice at the novitiate in Spokane.
Following some studies at Community Colleges of Spokane, Rosa entered a baccalaureate program at Gonzaga University. September 25, 2011, after some years of continual listening, learning and discerning with God and the Sisters of Providence, Rosa made the decision to profess her first vows. Her initial call was deepening and her desire to serve in the ministries of the Sisters of Providence was growing. Graduating from Gonzaga University in May of 2015, Rosa was eager to begin her ministry at Providence High School in Burbank, where she has come to love the staff and the students. She also enjoys her time knowing and serving with the people of St. Finbar Parish, especially the Vietnamese community. She also finds loving support in her Providence community.
Rosa has learned that her vocational commitment is a continual walk with Jesus. As a Sister of Providence, she has discovered that making decisions is a way of life, which involves ongoing discernment and listening to the voice and call of God. She has found that faithfulness to that call brings joy to her heart.
A “new song in my mouth”
Like Rosa, all of us are invited to discern our vocational call. Some of us have already made life commitments and others are more at the beginning of that vocation journey. Each of us, whether young or old, will find that our journey is about seeking, listening and responding to our individual call. Some may discover, like Rosa, the call to follow Jesus in religious life.
We must not be afraid to listen to the inner voice of God and commit to being faithful to ongoing listening and discernment. Each day we will find there are decisions to make, and in faithfulness, we, too, will discover the joy of our hearts’ choice.
Rosa is delighting in her beloved, Jesus, and, as the psalm says, “wants to tell of Love’s way to all who will listen.” Rosa says, “There is a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to my beloved.” She is eager to respond: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” So today she comes before us to publicly declare her commitment to God as a Sister of Providence.
In her own words recently, she proclaims: “God’s favor is with me, and His faithfulness will keep me faithful to my Religious vocation journey.”